Tuesday, December 31, 2019

New Year's Eve 2019

Let's take stock together, okay? Looking back, was it a basically good decade for you? Can you think back to all that went well?

For me, just being here today, knowing that my young families are thriving, having Ed by my side badgering me about the details of long term care, all this while the furnace hums, with delicious leftovers in the fridge, and waking up to a delicate snowfall  -- oh the list of good things is so long! -- leaves me feeling so very happy, and so very fortunate.

So what do we do in the next year? What resolves are good to put forth? Well, at the very least, people need to see that smile. From you, from me. If nothing else, we should be generous with handing it out. Cheap and easy. So why so often do we hold back?

And what else is on my list for the new year? Well, this past year, I stayed within my pensioner's budget, so that's good. I've eaten plenty of fruits, grains and veggies. All fine. I should move even more and I would love to write more, and read more, and be calmer than calm.

Isn't it wonderful to have the luxury of worrying about such small items in the scheme of things? I am very much aware of my good twist of fate.

And what would I like to see in the new year? For me, that's easy: more of the same I hope. Really, more of the same.

I thought about all this as I lingered over an afternoon cup of coffee at a coffee shop near my daughter's home.

The day had gone well: we had had snow and it is cold outside, but none of this was excessive -- not the cold nor snow. It's a pretty winter landscape!

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Breakfast, late, even as the guy is barely awake...

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Then I'm off to my mom's apartment and to the Rehab Center, where I go over with her steps that we will be taking in the weeks ahead. For the first time, she does not appear to be listless and indifferent (meaning hostile) to it. She listens and offers some input. All that is very very good.

And now the pause for coffee, with sunshine...

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... and a change of venue: I go to my daughter's home to help them take down the tree and tidy up their place in preparation for that fresh start we all love to have on January 1st.

But hey, there is snow! While Sparrow naps, Snowdrop and her mom build a snowman. There isn't that much snow and what's there is powdery. Nonetheless, they are bravely moving forward with it.

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... while the dad practices mixing cocktails for their evening celebrations. (The lune en miel from Ladurée is just exquisite!)

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The wee snowman's done!

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Sparrow is up!

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Siblings, watching a Sesame Street clip together...

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We do a lot of "cheers!"  and "happy new year's"...

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... and then I return home to fix a New Year's Eve supper for Ed and me. With Prosecco. You don't need champagne to say "cheers" and "happy new year" and "I love you."

The moon shines brightly here, at the farmette. Does it for you as well? I hope so.

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Happy, happy New Year! With love.

Monday, December 30, 2019

the last holiday gathering

Typically, by December 30th, Christmas feels like last year's holiday. Not forgotten, but really distant. Whatever tree I have up has grown stiff and brittle from its long indoor life. Time to take it down. My attention shifts toward the new year.

But this year, all this has changed. Because the kids came up from Chicago to be with me for the weekend following the 25th, Christmas has a had quite the long run at the farmhouse! Only this evening, when all is very quiet here, do I feel that the holiday is towards its end.

And it was a remarkable, beautiful holiday!

I came to it tired and and not a little frustrated. Oh, I had had my nights of sleep, but still, the days dragged me down. For me, November had been brutal (the weather, Ed's prolonged absence) and I expected to coast through December. Well, that didn't happen. My mom's stroke completely changed my routines. There were still the grandkids to watch, there were holiday preparations, but mainly, there was a lot of mom stuff to deal with.

But here's a miraculous thing: this weekend, when my daughters and their families came together at the farmhouse, no one was sick. No kid had even the sniffles. This in itself was fabulous! No low grade fevers, no ear infections, no passing around nasty bugs. With small kids in our midst, that is indeed a rare event in this season!

And here's another sweet detail: for decades, when the kids were little, I made a big fuss for three meals in a row: I cooked and baked for all of Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas breakfast and Christmas dinner. And I decided to do that again this weekend: three meals in a row for all of us. The goal was to make it special but also to spread the prep throughout the day so that I would not disappear into the kitchen for hours on end and be removed from the fun of playing with everyone. Somehow, it worked well. All meals were ready within fifteen minutes of the predicted hour and I felt I could weave in and out of child fun and kitchen duties.

Still, today, we all voted for going out for our last meal together. There is magic in that as well and yes, this day, all of it, was liberally sprinkled with magic.

Breakfast. In two parts: the first is just me and the little girl, sharing a mango.

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I then bring up Snowdrop's balance bike. Want to try it? Yes! Adjust the seat and we're off!

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Breakfast part two: with my two girls.

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Let's ride you over to the kitchen sink for a bath now!

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Then follows some serious cooking for Primrose and me! But only pretend.

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With a birthday cake!

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And macarons.

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We meet up on the Capitol Square for an early lunch at Graze (the casual place that's a companion to the posh L'Etoile).

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You'd think these two hadn't seen each other in years! The joy is that great!

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Graze is completely empty when we arrive and it remains on the empty side the entire time we're there. Not many people come in for a festive brunch on a Monday. Downtown Madison feels a bit empty -- closed down in anticipation of another holiday coming up tomorrow. But all this throws us a nice benefit: first of all, we get a terrific table with a view...

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And, too, no one minds that the kids are a little more active. They are all well trained to sit quietly when in a restaurant, but today we bend the rules a little. And this makes for a very happy bunch of young ones.

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"Are you taking apicture of the two sisters? Can I be in it?"

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"I'm just happy to play with my napkin..."

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When they stand on an air vent, their skirts lift, as if walking in a city over a subway vent.

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And so ends my holiday. I'd say it ranked up there among the finest.

I came home, drank a tall cup of coffee and promptly fell asleep on the orange small cuch. Tired and happy, all at the same time.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

and a beautiful day after...

The feel of the days after a holiday is so different when the family lingers! You hardly notice that the celebrations came yesterday. Today is equally special.

It was a busy day, but in a good way. I put aside worries about where my mom should be in a few weeks or a few months. I turned my attention fully on the young ones.

Primrose wakes up with the cheepers. They're raring to go. She's raring to go.

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(hey, who's the photographer around her)

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(feeding "the girls")

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(hurrying to greet the arriving cousins...)

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Sparrow is the quieter soul of the lot. Happy to snuggle... to have someone read him a book.

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I make shakshouka for brunch. I know, I know, it's not the first time!

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In the late afternoon, we go to the Childrens Museum. Snowdrop is thrilled to show her cousin "the ropes."

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We stay until the Museum is ready to close. As I drive home, I think how pretty the downtown is at this time of the year...

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Back at the farmhouse, a photo tradition: the cousins!!

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Dinner -- I make chicken, shrimp and fish tacos. Ed fires up the tortillas.

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There's a bit of cheese that winds up on the floor. Primrose helps vacuum it all up. Loud noise? No problem! The girl is absolutely fearless!

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Fearless and infinitely huggable.

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I feel this does end the holiday season for me. It's been a rough and tumble set of weeks. But with plenty of highlights. This weekend was surely a super highlight.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Christmas once again

The kids are here today and tonight and Christmas is making its second appearance at the farmhouse. It could be that the babes are all gifted out: they've had visits from Santa, presents and treats from parents, other grandparents, aunts uncles friends and people they've never met. They are one lucky set of tykes. Lots of festivities, lots of ho ho hos.

Still, there's the farmhouse and their relationship to it. Here, they'll always find a nook, a stack of books, some of their favorite toys and lots of their favorite foods. And a grandma who fusses and an Ed who takes up a disproportionate share of the couch with his massive form. And a wee stack of gifts for Christmas.

And today marks the start of a farmhouse Christmas weekend.

Predictably, I start the day with baking. A buche de Noel of course. An old recipe from that notebook (described in my post yesterday). It has to be light, otherwise it's just too much sweetness and decades ago I found the perfect recipe: The cake is just eggs, cocoa and sugar. The filling is whipped cream with orange peel. And on the outside, I put a very thin layer of chocolate genache.

(the finished log)

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Another project for the morning: to work free the shells from the crustaceans, reserving some of them for a broth that I will use to cook the squid.

(the fridge has never looked so full!)

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All this after breakfast.

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It's a mad scramble afterwards. Put in extra table leaf. Cook, bake, whip that cream, slice those scallops. Poach the fish: a bit of salmon and monkfish, aka the "sea devil" (it looks kind of unattractive and it has sharp fangs! luckily, I picked up a prepared fillet).

And lobster tails! I always await for that day after the  Christmas when my grocery store sells lobster tails at half price -- two for $12! I'll steam those toward the end. Not now, because I see the gang is arriving!

We exchange presents. The kids play. They eat, they read, romp, and hug. I'll leave you with a short photo album of a beautiful holiday celebration. Of family, of love. And eating! Let's not forget about the eating part.

(the gifts)

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(the hugs)

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(the munchies)

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(the love)

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(the food)

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(lobster? mmmmm!)

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(forks! Yeah!)

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(cherries! ohhh!)

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(quiet time...)

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Night time. Rest time. Because tomorrow is another full day of play, books, food... love.